August 23, 2019

Astros Violate CBA at Justin Verlander's Request, Forbid Reporter Access To Clubhouse; In 2017, Nationals Threatened To Revoke A Journalist's Credentials Over A Picture Of A Sandwich

Astros pitcher Justin Verlander asked the team to bar Detroit Free Press reporter Anthony Fenech (the Tigers beat writer since 2015) from the team's clubhouse on Wednesday night. The Astros, in what was a clear violation of baseball's collective bargaining agreement, agreed.

Astros vice president of communications Gene Dias said Verlander was "adamant" that he would not speak to any credentialed media if Fenech was present. And so three members of Astros security blocked the door into the clubhouse.

The Free Press reported:
[P]reventing a reporter from entering the clubhouse on time could violate Section 2 of the Regular Season Club/Media Relations Guidelines in the collective bargaining agreement, which gives working media access to both clubhouses "no later than 10 minutes following the final out of each game." In Wednesday's case, the Free Press was admitted 19 minutes after the game ended and six minutes later than other credentialed media.

Also, Section 6 of the guidelines requires players to be "available to the media before and after games for interviews." It wasn't immediately clear whether the Astros' decision to delay Fenech's access to Verlander would violate the rule.
The following morning (yesterday), Verlander posted two tweets:
I declined to speak with the @freep rep last night because of his unethical behavior in the past. I reached out to the @freep multiple times before the game to notify them why and to give them an opportunity to have someone else there. Ironically they didn't answer. ...

Although I tried to avoid this situation altogether, I've still reached out to @freep multiple times today with no response. They're still not interested in my side of the story.
Eight minutes later, Free Press sports editor Chris Thomas seemed to politely call bullshit on Verlander, replying:
I would like to know who you have contacted @freep about telling your side of the story. My reporter has not heard from you directly, nor have I. My email is listed on the article we published last night. I am more than happy to speak with you about it.
The Astros stated that Fenech was "delayed temporarily" from entering the Astros clubhouse because of "the past history" between Verlander and the writer and the pitcher's "legitimate concerns" about those interactions. Verlander, ever thoughtful, was also apparently concerned about "the best interests of the other media members" in the clubhouse.

The BBWAA stated that it was "alarmed" by the Astros' decision "to restrict the clubhouse access of a reporter", which "violated the MLB club-media regulations".

MLB vice president of communications Mike Teevan:
Per our Club-Media Regulations, the reporter should have been allowed to enter the clubhouse postgame at the same time as the other members of the media. We have communicated this to the Astros.
I'm extremely disappointed with the Astros' inexplicable decision to limit my ... access on Wednesday night. In my time as the Tigers beat writer for the Free Press, my foremost goal has been fair and ethical coverage. I am confident that goal has been clearly and consistently achieved in my body of work and with the personal and professional way I build relationships across baseball.
Brittany Ghiroli (The Athletic) covered the Orioles for nine years and recalls a somewhat similar confrontation with an Orioles pitcher. In that case, however, Baltimore's PR department did not kowtow to the player, but instead arranged a meeting between Ghiroli and the player. The two adults discussed and resolved the situation.
Verlander says what he thinks and, for the media, that's usually a good thing. Why not afford him the private opportunity to do exactly that if he had a problem with a particular person? ...

[Verlander's issue] is believed to be an innocuous conversation the veteran righty was having that Fenech used as Twitter fodder. Verlander felt it was eavesdropping, not reporting. Fenech, who has been the Tigers beat writer since 2015, clearly felt otherwise. Several smaller incidents over the years kept the relationship strained, and it's unclear if that incident — from several years ago — or something else was what ultimately set things off. ...

Verlander could have refused to answer Fenech's question postgame in the scrum, or given him a rude stare. In our profession, that still would have been acceptable. ...

As news of this circulated Thursday morning, I got a few texts from current players. Oddly enough, in this case, they were all on the media's side.

It's his ego, one player opined of Verlander.

If it was anyone else, said another, would this have even happened?

Verlander could have taken the high road Thursday. Failing that, the Astros could have looked at this as a situation that needed to be resolved between two adult men. ...

Now, it won't go quietly. The Free Press is angry, with plans to file a grievance.

The Astros had a chance to not let this become the story. What I don't understand is why they didn't even try.
Here's an amusing headline from Awful Announcing: Reporter says Nationals threatened his credentials because he unknowingly violated Darren Rovell's "exclusive rights to a sandwich"
There's been a lot of criticism of Darren Rovell (formerly of ESPN, now with the Action Network) over the years for taking others' content with poor or no credit, creating Twitter rules he doesn't actually follow, sending misleading tweets (and even misleading fake newspaper covers), dropping ridiculous takes, posting absurd videos, going on about his brand, and fighting with everyone (amongst other things).

That intensified Thursday with a detailed story from Robert Silverman in The Daily Beast about criticism Rovell has faced for his Action Network picks ...

But Thursday saw an even better Rovell story on Twitter from Brody Logan, about how the Washington Nationals once got made at him for spoiling Rovell's "exclusive rights to a sandwich."
A few months ago, Logan recounted the episode (from October 2017) in a series of seven tweets:
Figure this is a good place for my own Rovell story.

Few years ago I was working in DC, got a DM from a viewer "you see this?" It was a picture of a new food offering at Nats Park. A sandwich with some Maryland crab, DC halfsmoke, Virginia ham. All the best from the DMV

So I thanked him, took the picture, and tweeted it out [October 6, 2017] with a description of this new DMV food offering. Tweet took off, got on blogs, whatever. Later that night I get a message from my boss "we have an issue with the Nationals you need to see me when you get in."

The Nationals called my corporate bosses over the picture, because Rovell saw my tweet and complained to the Nats because they had granted him EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS to a sandwich. So the Nats contacted my boss threatening retribution if I didn't remove the picture....of a hot dog.

I had to write an apology to the Nationals explaining that I was unaware it was possible to have a hot dog exclusive, because if I didn't, I could have lost my credentials for the season. Because R*vell complained to the team I tweeted a picture sent to me by a third party.

I'm not the only one that has had this guy call teams for sharing food pictures he thought we're exclusive to him. Great guy.

The worst part is I had to have a meeting over this stupid thing, and that my boss had to take time out of his day to deal with it, and that the team couldn't just say "yeah yeah, no problem, we'll talk to him" then do nothing and let it slide. But no, it became a work ordeal.

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